Archived: Inspired by Family's Civil Rights Legacy, Sandra Evers-Manly Launches 'Films with a Purpose'

Sandra Evers-Manly

“I used to ask my mother ‘Why don’t I see people that look like us on TV’ I did not see diverse images in stories,” Sandra Evers-Manly told DiversityInc. “And my mother said one thing: ‘Change it.'”

Evers-Manly, vice president ofglobal corporate responsibility at Northrop Grumman (No. 31 on the DiversityInc 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list), comes from a family with a legacy of creating change in the world. She is the cousin of civil rights activist and educator Medgar Evers, who was assassinated outside of his home in Jackson, Miss., on June 12, 1963.

A longtime advocate for black filmmakers, Evers-Manly recently launched Films With A Purpose (FWAP) to fund short films that “inspire, educate and uplift.”

“Films With A Purpose is part of a nonprofit that I started close to 25 years ago called the Black Hollywood Education Resource Center,” she said.

She explained that the nonprofit was established to provide a forum for black filmmakers to create positive stories, and to provide an opportunity for young people to enter the film industry.

FWAPfinancially supports the completion of diverse short films, as well as assists filmmakers with their distribution, as Evers-Manly hasn’t seen enough of the “diversity of the African American experience, the experience of people of color periodin film and television.”

“I’ve now been in corporate America for more than 30 years, so I wanted to do something personally in which I could really give back to the community,” she said. “Thanks to being able to work at a great company, I’ve been able to save financially and this is just my way of continuing my philanthropy.”

Evers-Manly has been with Northrop Grumman since she was 22 years old, starting as a summer hire during her junior year in college. She said her nonprofit is not affiliated with the company but is a personal project, which she makes time for after work and on the weekends.

The executive’s philanthropy also includes donating funds toward the building of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Northrop Grumman made a substantial contribution as well.

“I have a saying that ‘To live is to give,'” she said. “And part of my living is giving.”

The Legacy of Slavery and’Forgiveness’

Satie Gossett

Slavery in the U.S. is the topic of “Forgiveness,” one of the five short films funded and produced by Evers-Manly. It was written and directed by Satie Gossett, filmmaker and owner of Goose Egg Entertainment. His previous short film, “10 Minutes,” featured his father, Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.

“The requests for ‘Forgiveness’ and the reaction to the film has been amazing,” Evers-Manly said. “At the beginning of next year, during Black History Month, we’re hoping to rally around the country with the film and get schools out to see it.”

In September, “Forgiveness” screened at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual conference and had a successful seven-day run at the Landmark Theatre in L.A. It has been submitted for Academy Award consideration and to film festivals around the country.

What’s touching viewers is Gossett’s narrative of a young African American boy named Oliver Burroughs who explores the brutal history of America’s role in slavery in an essay he submitted for the president of the United States’ national essay contest. Oliver wants the president to make a national apology for America’s involvement in slavery so healing in the nation can begin.

Gossett told DiversityInc he came up with the idea for the film when his oldest son, who was 11 years old at the time, asked him about slavery. He said that all Americans must be educated on the history of the enslavement of blacks in the U.S.

“We can’t have revisionist history to have people favored in a certain light,” said Gossett, a graduate of Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communication. “The topic of conflict resolution is also big. People have to face the obstacles and make amends. The way African Americans were treated and the culture that was created was never properly addressed; it was kind of glossed over.”

“Forgiveness” reflects the fact that a U.S. president has not officially apologized for slavery. In 2008, the House of Representatives issued an apology to African Americans for the institution of slavery and the subsequent Jim Crow laws. The following year, the Senate approved a resolution apologizing for slavery as well. However, due to differences over language rejecting reparations in the Senate bill, Congress has never issued a joint apology.

As depicted in his film, Gossett said an apology for slavery and also creating a plan of action would be helpful for our country. He said the goal of the film was to start the conversation.

“But the reverberations of what everyone is saying about [‘Forgiveness’] seem like there’s a lot more to it than the story that I created,” he added.

“Education on slavery is important for all Americans because it’s a part of our history,” Evers-Manly said. “It’s a sad part of our country’s history, but we can’t ignore it. I will tell you that we have to applaud Georgetown University.”

Related Story: Georgetown to Apologize, Offer Preferred Admission to Descendants of 272 Slaves it Sold

In September, John J. DeGioia, Georgetown University’s current president, announced unprecedented steps to make amends for selling 272 enslaved people to pay off an operations debt in 1838. The university will issue a formal apology to the descendants of its former slaves and offer descendants preferred admissions.

Evers-Manly said “Forgiveness” focuses on “the hard issues around slavery that we still haven’t fully dealt with in this nation.”

Gossett calls Film With A Purpose a “godsend.”

“It’s something that’s needed,” he said. “Bringing to life positive images of people of color that inspire and entertain. My film is one of five that Ms. Evers-Manly has funded. She has a plan to distribute these films and continue to screen these projects across the country and just bring awareness and exposure to these types of images.”

For more information on Films With A Purpose, including scheduling a screening of “Forgiveness,” visit

View the trailer for “Forgiveness”:

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